Guatemala ex-president Alfonso Portillo goes on trial

Alfonso Portillo addressing the UN in 2001 Mr Portillo fled Guatemala shortly after leaving office

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Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo has gone on trial in Guatemala City on charges of embezzlement.

Mr Portillo denies stealing $15m (£9.7m) from the defence ministry while he was in power between 2000 and 2004.

The trial had been postponed repeatedly as Mr Portillo's lawyers presented a series of objections to the legal process.

Former Defence Minister Eduardo Arevalo and former Finance Minister Manuel Maza are also on trial.

'Political trial'

The prosecution said it would present more than 700 documents and call 36 witnesses to prove that Mr Portillo authorised some $15m in public funds to be transferred to the defence ministry.

Prosecutors say officials close to him then sent the money from the defence ministry to personal bank accounts in the US and Europe.

Mr Portillo's lawyers say the case is politically motivated and have questioned the impartiality of the presiding judge, Morelia Rios.

Mr Portillo, 58, is also wanted in the US for allegedly embezzling foreign donations for education projects. But under Guatemalan law, he must be tried in his own country before he can be extradited.

During his time in office, Mr Portillo promised to campaign against corruption and impunity in Guatemala.

He fled to Mexico shortly after leaving office but was sent back to Guatemala in 2008. He said he fled because he could not get a fair trial in Guatemala.

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